Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

August 5, 2011 -

UPDATE: Mojang's Markus Persson updated his personal blog with the following statement:

"A lot of people want more details about what is going on, so here is everything I know:

First of all, I love Bethesda. I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is.

About half a year ago, our lawyers recommended us to register “Minecraft” as a trademark, so we did. I had voted against it initially, but we did it anyway. Better safe than sorry, and all that. At the same time, we also applied for “Scrolls”, the new game we’re working on. We knew of no similarly named games, and we had even googled it to make sure. I’m not even sure if you CAN trademark individual words, like “Scrolls”, but we sent in the application anyway.

(Disclosure: We’ve enforced the trademark for Minecraft once, when there was a minecraft clone on iOS, using our name. People were emailing me saying our iOS version was buggy and bad, so we asked them to change the name of their game, and they did.)

A while later, out of the blue, we got contacted by Bethesda’s lawyers. They wanted to know more about the “Scrolls” trademark we were applying for, and claimed it conflicted with their existing trademark “The Elder Scrolls”. I agree that the word “Scrolls” is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image. The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary. We looked things up and realized they didn’t have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games. We suggested a compromise where we’d agree to never put any words in front of “Scrolls”, and instead call sequels and other things something along the lines of “Scrolls - The Banana Expansion”. I’m not sure if they ever got back to us with a reply to this.

Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started.

I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark. I sincerely hope Bethesda isn’t pulling a Tim Langdell."

Original Story: Minecraft creator Markus "notch" Persson announced via Twitter that Zenimax - the parent company of Bethesda Softworks has sent him a legal notice about its next game Scrolls. The parent company of Bethesda and id Software claims that the name "Scrolls" infringes on its Elder Scrolls RPG franchise and the Mojang's game will cause brand confusion with Bethesda's upcoming Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

"Just got a letter from Bethesda’s lawyers. They claim "Scrolls" infringes on their trademark and everyone will confuse it with Skyrim," he said via Twitter.

He also posted a scan of the first page of the legal document via twitpic, as proof.

Scrolls is a digital collectible card game/board game designed by Markus "notch" Persson and Jakob Porser -- with story help from Penny-Arcade's Jerry Holkins, and art by famous "demaker" Jnkboy.

Bethesda and Zenimax have not yet publicly commented on the legal document, which we assume is a formal cease and desist letter (the document was not translated into English).

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

On a related note, notch announced via Twitter that sales of his most popular title, Minecraft, have surpassed the 3 million mark.

Source: RPS


Comments

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

An IP lawyer's job is about prevention, but in this case I'd say just go ahead and let the trademark examiner make the call. Based on the factors that are used to judge whether a new mark would cause confusion among customers, I really don't think Zenimax would have much of a case for either opposing the registration or successfully suing for trademark infringement later.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Trademark is important, when you buy a bottle of soda labled Coke Cola you want to be sure it was bottled by the Coke-Cola company and not some plant in China with no safetly precautions and extra lead. Thus we have trademark law, to protect the value of brands.

Well sometimes this goes too far. It sounds pretty obvious that "Scrolls" is a very different type of game than The Edler Scrolls. It also seems to be a BIG strecth to say that a game called "Scrolls" infringes on the game series "The Elder Scrolls". This kind of overzealous protecting of trademark is just one more thing in a long line of pitfalls and hurdles for the smaller developers. Now Notch has made enough money from Minecraft that I think he'll be able to defend himself adequetly, Bethesda seems to be one of the better publishers out there as well so hopefully bad press and goodwill will prevail and Notch can put this behind him. Still, it highlights how a large company can bully a smaller one.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Honestly, If I saw a can labeled "Coke-Cola" I would probably realize that I was not drinking "Coca-cola" But that's just me.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Hoping that Bethesda (or their lawyers) fail spectacularly with this little 'endeavor'. The notion that "Scrolls" will cause confusion with "The Elder Scrolls" series is something only a lawyer could take seriously.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

...... How in the hell would you confuse a downloadable card game with a big budget title?

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Years ago I worked on a MUD/MURPE called "Oblivion", long before "Oblivion - Elder Scrolls" came out.  If they have a case against Mojang for using 'Scrolls', it could be said we have an argument against them for using "Oblivion"

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Why, hello there, awkward little P.R. moment!

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Reminds me of a certain patent troll who recently got his ass handed to him in court.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Though the danger here is they actually are using the word.  Langdell got, as you say, his ass handed to him, because he was lieing.. not because of the nature of his claims.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

Even if Langdell did not lie to the courts, he would have lost because he was not actively using the trademark.

Of course if he were an honest man he never would have brought a lawsuit up because he would have known he had no case.

Re: Zenimax to Mojang: Respect Your Elder Scrolls

That was one of the lies I was thinking of.  If he was actually actively producing games as 'Edge' then he would have had a legitimate case for calling into question companies using 'edge' in their video game titles.

 
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